With her ginger hair, deep emerald eyes and white skin you’d been forgiven for thinking Pooja Ganatra was more likely to be from Ireland than India.
But the 24-year-old was actually born in Mumbai to “typically Indian” parents and is now demanding a DNA test to find out where her unusual looks come from.
The young woman has been shunned and bullied in a country where such features are decidedly unusual.
Pooja, who runs her own clothes manufacturing business, said: “When I was born, my family had never seen anyone who looked like me before because they all have brown skin, black hair and brown eyes, like most Indians.
“Everyone in my neighbourhood was absolutely fascinated by me and were all very curious as to why I looked so different.
“When my freckles started appearing everywhere when I was three, because none of my relatives had ever gotten freckles before, they didn’t know what they were.
“I was rushed to the doctors because everyone thought it was a birth defect or skin disease.”
She said her looks meant she was always the odd-one-out at school where she was routinely bullied.
She said: “People would always come up and ask ‘what are those spots on your face? Why do you have so many marks?’. It was a real mental challenge.
“Even in my first year of university, I was pulled aside and told not to wear sleeveless shirts because they were ‘too eye catching’ with my white skin.
“There was no rule against sleeveless clothing and every other girl dressed like me, yet I was singled out.
“Indians love to pose for photos with different-looking people from overseas, so I often get people coming up to me asking for pictures.
It’s happened more than 100 times in my life – I have to tell the, ‘relax, I’m Indian too’.”
She said taxi drivers often mistake her for English and are stunned when she starts speaking in Hindi.
She continued: “The funniest one is when I’m charged the foreigner price for public attractions because they think I’m a backpacker, so I have to prove I’m Indian.
“When I was in America people wouldn’t believe me when I told them I’m Indian. Even the customs officer at the airport had to look twice at my passport and asked me if I’m really from India.”
Pooja’s father Rajesh, 51, has darker skin while her mother, Hemaxi, 46, has slightly lighter than average skin and has a few freckles, although none on her face.
But it is a complete mystery to Pooja and her family why she looks the way she does.
Considering India was colonised by different countries and ruled by the British for over 100 years, the 24-year-old said there is definitely a possibility her ancestors were from the United Kingdom.
She said: “I’d love to get a DNA test one day to discover more about my ancestry because I don’t know anything about it.
“I have no idea why I look the way that I do but a test into my genes could explain a lot.
“My grandmother died when my mum was very young, so I was never able to ask her about it but I’m very curious.”
Pooja was recently snapped by prominent Mumbai photographer Karishma Mehtha for her popular ‘Humans of Bombay
Nigeria Football Federation boss Amaju Pinnick under fresh corruption probe
Several properties belonging to top officials of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), including its president Amaju Pinnick, have been seized in a fresh corruption probe.
The latest investigation and seizures are being carried out by the country’s Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission’s (ICPC).
The ICPC has published a newspaper advertisement about the properties seized – half of which belong to Pinnick.
According to the statement published in the Nigerian papers one of Pinnick’s properties is in London.
It comes amidst wide-ranging claims over how money meant for football development allegedly disappeared.
“We can’t go into further details beyond the fact that many officials of the NFF are under investigation,” ICPC spokesperson, Rasheedat Okoduwa said.
“It’s basically because what they have is in excess of what they have earned.”
The ICPC has also taken control of properties belonging to the NFF second vice-president Shehu Dikko and the general secretary Muhamed Sanusi among others.
Rwanda ban Burundi,s music star ahead of annual festival
Burundian musician Jean Pierre Nimbona, popularly known as Kidum, has told the BBC he is confused by Rwanda’s decision to ban him from playing at the upcoming Kigali Jazz Fusion festival.
Kidum is one of Burundi’s biggest music stars and has performed in Rwanda for the past 16 years.
But a police official phoned the musician’s manager to warn that he would only be allowed to make private visits to Rwanda.
“[My manager was told] Kidum is not supposed to perform, tell him to leave. If he comes for private visits fine, but no performances,” the musician told BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme.
The mayor of Rwanda’s capital said that in this instance permission had not been sought from the authorities for him to perform at the festival in Kigali.
Kidum was a leading peace activist during Burundi’s civil war between 1993 and 2003 and used his songs to call for reconciliation.
The 44-year-old musician said he had never had problems with Rwandan authorities until recently when three of his shows were cancelled at the last minute – including one in December 2018.
That month Burundi had banned Meddy, a musician who is half-Burundian, half-Rwandan, from performing in the main city of Bujumbura.
Kidum said he was unsure if the diplomatic tensions between Burundi and Rwanda had influenced his ban.
“I don’t know, I don’t have any evidence about that. And if there was politics, I’m not a player in politics, I’m just a freelance musician based in Nairobi,” he said.
He said he would not challenge the ban: “There’s nothing I can do, I just wait until maybe the decision is changed some day.
“It’s similar to a family house and you are denied entry… so you just have to wait maybe until the head of the family decides otherwise.”
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